A young man’s recently deceased girlfriend mysteriously returns from the dead, but he slowly realizes she is not the way he remembered her.
In the tradition of movies like My Boyfriend’s Back, Shaun Of The Dead & Warm Bodies comes Life After Beth, a Zomromcom if you will that asks the question: What would you do if your recently deceased girlfriend comes back from the dead? With a burgeoning hunger for flesh? And a sudden love for smooth jazz?
Aubrey Plaza plays Beth Slocum, who (while clearing her head during a hike in the woods) gets bitten by a snake and dies. Her boyfriend, Zach (Dane DeHaan) is suitably crushed and depressed over the news, until he finds out that Beth seems to be alive & well – and hidden away by her parents at home. At first, Zach is kept out of the house by Beth’s parents, Maury & Geenie (John C. Reilly & Molly Shannon), but eventually he gains their confidence and they allow him to visit Beth (Who has no idea that she died). At first, her parents won’t let her out of the house (except at night), but eventually Zach convinces them to allow her to go out during the day.
And it all goes downhill from there…
Written & directed by Jeff Baena, Life After Beth wants to be a horror comedy with a bit of heart, but it’s a mostly plodding affair. There are glimmers of a far more involving story to be found here but Baena’s script seems quite content rehashing ideas that have been done to death already. He doesn’t give enough screen time to Zach’s parents (Played by Paul Reiser & Cheryl Hines) and while Reilly & Shannon get a bit more to chew on, it still isn’t enough to warrant comedic actors of their stature. That being said, all of them make the most of a mediocre script and have a few moments to shine. But only a few.
Aubrey Plaza really steals the show here as Beth, and she nearly saves the entire movie while she’s at it. She’s attractive and knows her way around a script well enough. She’s also a very talented physical actress and she displays quite a bit of dexterity as Beth slowly becomes the zombie that Zach thinks she already is. She also has a way of stealing scenes as she goes through some horrific permutations in the background of a few key scenes. I’m not too sure that Dane DeHaan is particularly cut out to do comedic roles though. He seems to be a bit stilted at the outset of the film, and while he gets better as he trudges forward, he never really seems to be comfortable in the role. It’s almost as if he’s holding himself slightly above the material and is slumming here. Still, he does have a few funny moments, especially with his older brother, Kyle (Matthew Gray Gubler). There are a few funny cameos here as well, with Anna Kendrick, Jim O’Heir & especially Garry Marshall making the most of their scant time on screen.
But it’s much ado about nothing much I’m afraid. The movie doesn’t really kick into high gear until an hour has gone by, and by then a lot of you will either be bored to death or asleep. And since the movie only runs about 87 minutes or so, that leaves only about 27 minutes of actual zombie mayhem. And while we hear a lot of that mayhem going on in the background of these final scenes, we don’t actually see too much of it. Maybe this was Baena’s idea, to save the best for last – but it doesn’t really do too much to liven up the proceedings all too much. And it all ends pretty much the way you think it will, and that’s a shame considering the potential here.
Still, Life After Beth does have a moment or two where it shines and I chuckled for a second. And Plaza’s performance really is something special to behold, but does that make it worth watching? Personally, I don’t think I’m ever going to see it again, despite its fine lead performance so I can’t recommend it to anyone. But if it’s an especially slow weekend and there’s absolutely nothing else to watch, then Life After Beth might fit the bill.
But it has gotta be a really, really, really slow weekend…
Life After Beth – 1.75 out of 5 shrouds.